The Spanish Love Deception [Book Review]
Catalina Martín is nearing thirty and the pressure for her to be in a romantic relationship takes center stage, as her sister’s wedding day is fast approaching. The need for her to show up happily in love looms over her after she lies to her mother about being in a relationship that is pure fiction. Enter stage left, Aaron Blackford.
If you are a diehard fan of romance novels, this book will lead you down a long-winded path to love and might make you give up on reading the book. So, brace for impact and power through.
The book jumps into the love hate relationship between Catalina and Aaron Blackford, a mysterious co-worker that drives her up the wall. As the introduction to their relationship builds up, her dislike of Aaron is rooted in misunderstandings and juvenile reactions from Catalina (“Lina”). The back-and-forth dialogue between the pair throughout the book is redundant.
For example, in the opening scene Aaron offers to be Lina’s date out of the blue. You jump into his “generous” offer without a backstory, which is yellow flag for me. They proceed to have a conversation via her best friend Rosalyn, which drags on for too long. In my opinion, the author overwrote a lot of scenes, whether it was to make it sound believable or not, it needed to be edited down. I understand that his offer to help the damsel in distress was used to introduce their toxic relationship, but it is creepy how he knows about her sister’s wedding when she refuses to have a normal conversation with him. It did not land well with me and gave me stalker vibes.
At work Aaron and Lina are part of the same team. A supporting cast of co-workers are introduced: Hector, Gerald, and Kabir. At their team meeting, Lina is surprised she is asked to plan an event hosting a big client. When she protests, she faces sexist comments from Gerald. She looks around the room for support or someone to come to her aid, but the men in the room remain silent. Lina begrudgingly takes on the task working late nights.
When Aaron offers to help her plan the event one night, she refuses his help very aggressively. He ignores her rejection, insisting on helping and begins to review her progress. I am supposed to believe that he would help her after she was rude in rejecting his offer. She is hasty and obnoxiously rude throughout the book. Later, she refuses a ride home when it is pouring rain. He finally convinces her to get into his car. He proceeds to give her a ride home and basically knows what area of Brooklyn she lives in because he overhears her conversations in the office. It is hard to digest such bull shit. If a guy paid that much attention to me at work, I would never be left alone with him. Just saying… Is it love or obsession?
Before he drops Lina off at home, he offers to be her date once more in exchange for her accompanying him, as his date, to a fundraiser event. The pair agree and call a truce. After the fundraising event, Lina begins to develop an attraction to Aaron. She goes on and on about his strong arms and blue eyes. His blue eyes she can get lost in. *Eyeroll*
As the story evolves, it becomes hard to root for Lina. She consistently self-sabotages and her emotional immaturity is cringy. She is self-aware enough to fear him not showing up to the airport to fly to Spain (location of her sister’s wedding) after their last hostile exchange – the hostility coming from her, but not self-aware to be gracious or grow up?
He impresses her family, after a long plane ride of her grilling him on who was who in her family, and even manages to speak Spanish, which he apparently learned in a few days. That is kind of hard to believe, but I guess anything is possible. Aaron participates in all the family events and meets her ex-boyfriend, Daniel, which is the reason she lied about being in a relationship. Her now ex-boyfriend is engaged, he also happens to be the groom’s brother. What a twisted tale of love.
She felt the pressure to assure everyone that she was not ruined by her last relationship. She wants to portray that she has moved on and is flourishing, which is half the truth. She is excelling at her job but striking out romantically.
It turns out Lina “fled” Spain to the states because she was accused of sleeping with her professor, who happened to be Daniel. Her first real relationship was hidden and tarnished when peers discovered their romantic relationship, which is why she is bitter. She is a scorned woman who has very little trust in this world.
The book reaches a new level of cringe when Aaron and Lina consummate their relationship. Each scene is penned as though a teenager who has watched too much porn wrote it. Their first encounter is riddled in the kind of “dirty talk” that couples use to spice things up, not first-time lovers. I winced when she asks him to “claim” her. I’m sorry, are you a piece of luggage at the airport? The scene is quite gratuitous, and I can only use limited examples because of how raunchy it gets.
The spicy moments keep unraveling as they cannot keep their hands off one another. Oh, the joys of new love. Their sexual encounters become redundant, just like their overuse of “baby.” It is worth noting that once they confess their interest in one another, they call each other baby non-stop. In one of their conversations, they call each other baby in every sentence. EVERY SENTENCE. Unfortunately, it gets harder to read as you dive deeper into the novel. She even has him hold her while they both brush their teeth…I just can’t.
Following their trip to Spain, Lina’s fears set in. She becomes fearful of being harassed or accused of sleeping with the newly promoted Aaron. Will history repeat itself? She convinces herself that their relationship will not work, despite being assured by Aaron that it will. Their relationship is exposed by Gerald, the sexist jerk, who ends up making a scene at work. After the heated exchange, she gives up on her relationship. Like…why? Why continue torturing us with more chapters after this point? Why?
She comes to her senses, and they end up together, which is how most romance novels end. It is the happy ever after we all seek. It just took a long time for the two to end up together.
Despite being overwritten and at times unrealistic, there is a good book hidden within the 500 plus pages of The Spanish Love Deception. There are parts that are questionable. Would you date someone who creepily knows everything about you without ever having a full conversation? Probably not. I understand that opposites attract, but I find it hard to believe that he would fall in love with someone as disrespectful and condescending as Lina.
What troubled me most was the extremes at which their relationship was portrayed. They go from one extreme to the other, all the while the reader is expected to believe that it is natural. It is normal to take your stalker co-worker to meet your family and fall in love with them. Totally normal, right? Elana Armas’ writing, although decent, in many ways is juvenile. The rollercoaster of emotions is reminiscent of those we feel as teenagers, not adults in their late twenties. It took too long to reveal why Lina was unpleasant, there were chapters that dragged on for too long, and parts of this love story that missed the mark. There are good bones in this story, just not well executed.
I recently discovered that this book had a massive following and became popular during the pandemic, which is surprising because I thought it could have been written better. Apparently, the book is being adapted into a film, which I hope is better executed. I look forward to seeing it once it comes out.